EDITORIAL: Criticize University’s poor timing of search for new dean
With a proposal for new general education requirements in consideration and a search for a new dean underway, the College of Arts and Sciences is embarking on an era of change, and this board cautions the University not to rush too many changes at once.
University President Ronald Liebowitz announced last month that a search committee would recommend a new dean of Arts and Sciences to replace Prof. Susan Birren (BIOL), who has held the position since July 1, 2011. In an Oct. 13 email, Provost Lisa Lynch gave the Brandeis community an update and formally named the members of the search committee.
At the same time, Birren has been serving as the chair of the Task Force on General Education, which is working to finalize proposals for a new curriculum. The University has not changed the general education requirements in 24 years.
While this board recognizes the importance of progress, we question the University’s judgment in allowing two major transition periods to occur simultaneously. The timing of these changes is not ideal, as the College will attempt to implement a new curriculum without an experienced dean at the helm after Birren steps down.
One of the main duties of the dean of Arts and Sciences is to oversee the College’s curricula, so it makes sense that the dean would chair any task force seeking to change said curricula. However, having an outgoing dean making such drastic changes to the curriculum while there is an active search for a new dean is ill-advised. At best, the changes will add unnecessary challenges to the incoming dean’s existing learning curve; at worst, the transition to the new general education requirements will be incomplete and not ready to be implemented by the time the University replaces Birren. Either way, a period of needless instability lies ahead for the College of Arts and Sciences, and this will likely result in growing pains that could have been avoided if the University had considered the timing more carefully.
This board criticizes the University’s poor planning in this matter and urges Brandeis to take precautions to ensure a smooth transition on both fronts.
—Editor’s note: Mihir Khanna ’18 is a student representative to the search committee and also serves as one of the Justice’s associate editors. He did not take part in the discussion or composition of this editorial.